bit-tech.net

Microsoft patents auto-censorship

Microsoft patents auto-censorship

Perhaps the audio auto-censor technology was developed by Bill after one too many Ballmer outbursts?

If you like your video streams to turn the air blue, you might want to avoid content from Microsoft in the future: the company has received a patent on technology designed to automatically censor words from an audio stream.

According to Ars Technica, the company has been granted the patent by the US Patents and Trademarks Office and is now free to implement the system – which uses a predefined blacklist of banned words and a real-time monitoring system which can immediately react and censor the offending word – in its existing products as well as apply it to future technologies.

While it's unlikely we'll see the technology featured as an Xbox Live plugin – although perhaps that's not such a bad idea given some of the people I seem to end up playing Halo 3 with – the tool would have applications in video and audio streaming services that offer user-generated content over which the site has little or no control. Perhaps in the future YouTube will have an automatic beep machine that enables the easily offended to browse its contents without fear of profanity emanating forth from their sound system. The system could also see use in live TV broadcasting, where employees are often used to hit a literal big red button when profanity is used and the 'live' content is delayed by several seconds to allow them time to react.

The technology could also have a darker side, of course. While the patent talks about using the system to prevent the dissemination of profanity, there would be nothing to stop other words from being entered into the blacklist – or even entire sentences. As the technology works for both pre-recorded and live audio streams, it even opens the gate to a world where our telephone conversations can be monitored and censored in real-time.

Can you see real-world applications for this technology that don't have you reaching for your tinfoil hat and disused bomb shelter in the mountains? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

13 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Cobalt 21st October 2008, 10:36 Quote
I would love to see this as an XBL plugin. Actually it'd be good for counter strike as well :)

This sort of technology was bound to arrive eventually regardless of who developed it, concerns about privacy and censorship are valid but at least in the "free world" we shouldn't have to worry much about that. For a while at any rate. I wouldn't put it past China though.
shigllgetcha 21st October 2008, 10:56 Quote
id like to see this on live. actually id like to see every conversation in an open lobby/game logged so idiots could be banned from either using live or speaking over live. the amount of racial crap and "im gonna kill you" crap on live gets really tired quick. Intimidating people over the internet is just a waste of time, you dont even know the other persons real name let alone where they live

aslong as it censored abusive language as opposed to just the odd f word here and there that youd natuarly use in conversation or frustration. Which im sure it would.

it might help raise peoples perceptions of live. thats if its even intended to ever hit live
adamc 21st October 2008, 10:57 Quote
it would be good if users could enter their own words for beepage.
proxess 21st October 2008, 11:03 Quote
Its not a bad idea for parental control or people which can't really be bothered with excessive profanity, but it may also be used in really stupid situations. From now on every time you watch a streamed video that mentions Google, you will no longer hear Google. Nor Mac, nor Canonical nor Linux nor many others. Either that or there will be a warning "Are you sure you wan't to hear the next word?".
Flibblebot 21st October 2008, 13:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamc
it would be good if users could enter their own words for beepage.
"I'm going to cheesecake you, you cheesecaking cheesecake"

:D
shigllgetcha 21st October 2008, 13:42 Quote
if it could be used to stop people breathing down the mic like a pervert in a plaground itd definately be usefull
Almightyrastus 21st October 2008, 13:54 Quote
As long as the end user is free to turn it on or off then fine, more options are always good as long as they stay as options
DarkLord7854 21st October 2008, 16:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Almightyrastus
As long as the end user is free to turn it on or off then fine

I agree, if I can turn it on/off at will, then I'm down with it
TreeDude 21st October 2008, 16:09 Quote
I just mute annoying/offensive people, no fancy tech needed.
dr-strangelove 21st October 2008, 19:14 Quote
'Reaches for tinfoil hat'

Seriously though this could be a good idea in principle but it will cetainly end up censoring far more than you would really want. I'd hate to have to give Vista my Administrator's permission to play every profanity in every song I listen to. I agree with others who say it would be fine so long as there is an on/off switch but since when has microsoft given its users any options?
Gravemind123 21st October 2008, 20:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr-strangelove
'Reaches for tinfoil hat'

Seriously though this could be a good idea in principle but it will cetainly end up censoring far more than you would really want. I'd hate to have to give Vista my Administrator's permission to play every profanity in every song I listen to. I agree with others who say it would be fine so long as there is an on/off switch but since when has microsoft given its users any options?

I agree that this is a step in the wrong direction, but I think there is no way Microsoft could get away initially with making this sort of feature mandatory. It will probably be like UAC, Automatic Updates, Windows Firewall, etc... that not everyone needs or wants on, but they include by default with a turn-off switch. I wouldn't buy any product with this being on all the time with no off-switch, but as long as I always have a turn-off option it doesn't really bother me, just like UAC in Vista.
johnmustrule 22nd October 2008, 00:16 Quote
I don't think mass censorship is really a possibility with this system, people are going to notice if whole sentences have been removed from a video, and they're gonna boycott like usual. The only real way to sensor people is to not have the video shown at all, even in part.
LordPyrinc 22nd October 2008, 01:48 Quote
As some sort of parental control I'm okay with it, but in general, I do not agree with censorship. I think there is a lot more to worry about in society than just words. Sure, words can offend, inspire hate and anger, but often it's the people that remain quiet that are the ones you have to watch out for the most. Those that will smile and talk all nice, but when you are not around, their true nature comes out. I'd rather people be honest and up front so you know where you stand. Hiding the problems in the world with censorship is not going to fix anything. People need to have open dialogue on issues in order to heal wounds.
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums